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Cloud-powering the Foreseer Project

A couple years back, we helped the Foreseer group turn their complex research model into an interactive, web-based visualisation tool. The BP-funded group explores how resources are used globally, modelling the mind-bogglingly complicated interdependencies of things like land and water use energy.

Last month, we supported their team with a significant new software release, updating features, adding new data models, and tweaking the page design.

Forseer _home

Oh, and we made the tool work on the cloud.

You see, the Foreseer tool has two aspects to its hosting:

  • There is a website which gives the tool a web address, and gives the Forseer team content management tools (powered by Umbraco)
  • Behind the scenes, there are separate "worker" processes which run the maths to generate the numbers that are displayed in the diagrams

To make everything run faster we separated out these two functions and moved them onto Amazon Web Services (AWS). This improved architecture means during periods of heavy use we can spin up additional processing power from AWS to crunch the numbers, whilst the day to day website is unaffected.

For the website itself, we released a series of improvements and new functionality. As an example, we updated the user and permissions model to allow for people from different research groups access to different models. The design was also updated, bringing the look and feel in-line with the University’s most recent style guidelines.

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